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Friday, November 20, 2009

In Honour Of WO 1 (B) Salehuddin


Nuri pilots...I really envy you. Even though the nuri is not IFR rated, it is at least equipped with additional equipment to enhance flight safety. During my days, there were no such things as weather radar, GPS, night vision goggle, portable power pack, collapsible stretcher and what have you. What the nuri had then was the very basic equipment...and we had to fly in whatever weather conditions and roles, be it day or night...lucky you.

Now, let's talk about the equipment we had for winching role ...
 

Nuri in sea winching role using NATO strop

Well before 1977, I think, i.e. before the advent of "Saleh" stretcher, what we had for winching then were NATO strop and 'bosun chair' only.


                                                  
                                        
Winching of 'medivac' or 'casevac'  became a hazardous assignment for the ground troops and the AQM. You see...if the nuri could land at the LP to pick up the medivac/casevac....no problem since the casualty could be carried into the Nuri using a stretcher. But what happens if the casualty was unconscious and had to be winched up....something like in the picture above?

The technique employed then was to winch down either an additional AQM or a soldier, seated in the bosun chair, with the NATO strop. He then would place the NATO strop around the casevac and hold him - wrapped both his legs and hands around the casualty - during the winched up process. This prosess might aggravate the injury due to unwanted movement. Those days neither the aircrew nor the ground troops were  trained in paramedic. The utmost priority was to evacuate him to the hospital for medical attention soonest.

If my memory don't fail me, I remember one incident involving an Alouette 111 from No 3 Sqn on a casevac mission. This incident happened before the formation of 'Composite Squadrons'. Due to the terrain, the pilot had no choice but to winch up the casevac. The ground troops placed NATO strop around the casualty and 'tighten' the toggle. He was then winched up. However, half way through, he became unconscious and his hand released the toggle. Sadly, he slipped and fell to his death....! I am not privy to the finding of the Board Of Inquiry, but I suspected the toggle was not fully pulled close to his  chest. See the above picture on the position of the toggle.

Readers...let me assure you that the use of the NATO strop is VERY SAFE AS LONG YOU FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS.

No 10 Squadron was fortunate to have this MacGyver - Flt Sgt Salehuddin - Crewman Leader. Reliasing the potential aggravation to the injury, he came up with a design of a strecther for medivac/casevac. Base Workshop was given the task to produce a prototype. I remember when the trial was done at the Squadron. If I am not mistaken, the Engineering Boss from Department of Air Force himself came over to the Squadron to witness the trial. Once it was certified safe, it became operational immediately. These stretchers became part and parcel of Nuri's inventory. And, this important equipment clocked thousands of hours and had seen hundreds, if not thousands, of medivacs/casevacs.


"Saleh" Stretcher - simple in design...yet functional, cheap to produce...made in RMAF workshops, and most importantly...IT SAVES LIVES!!

In hindsight, fortunately there were no female AQMs those days....otherwise, Nuri would be preoccupied flying 'medivacs/casevacs' sorties. I am sure Flt Sgt Salehuddin would be the most unpopular Nuri  AQM among the ground troops then for designing this stretcher ....he...he...jangan marah.

So, young pilots...that was how the stretcher got its name. It was named after Flt Sgt Salehuddin in his honour for being creative. He retired as WO1. I am made to understand that these stretchers were no longer in use - decommissioned - since RMAF had replaced them with the  new collapsible stretchers.

RMAF...I sincerely think it is high time for you to recognise the contributions by these creative people of yours. The least you can do in appreciation to people like WO 1 Salehuddin is to have his name forever engraved in the RMAF Museum. And, the stretcher exhibited there. Is it asking too much? I had suggested to the museum management to display this Saleh stretcher in the RMAF Museum. The response from Brig Gen Dato' Muslim TUDM (R), Chairman of the RMAF Museum, is encouraging. To me, it is a part of RMAF history.

To WO 1 SALEHUDDIN...wherever you may be...WELL DONE.




2 comments:

mohd idris bin hassan said...

Thankyou for this very informative article. As a former infantry man I know first hand the sacrafices of the chopper pilots and their crew. Yes there were many times when our very lives depended on them and they never failed us. Oh! to hear the familar Bob Bob Bob bob sound of the approaching landing Nuri bringing our much needed rations and gear deep in Belum. The sway of trees as the canopy opens up and finally the touch down.An awresome sight by any means.
I agree airmen like WO1 salehuddin are a rare breed they are more than just airmen

Amir Ikhbar Mohd Latifi said...

Setahu saya p.w saleh tak pencen